Let’s face it. Most of us have no intention of growing old gracefully. In fact, many of us lead, or plan to lead, an active lifestyle well into our 60s, 70s and 80s. If you’re in the baby boomer generation – born between 1945 and 1965 – chances are you’ve recently been seen bicycling, jogging or running a 5k. This is a good thing!
Even though a sedentary lifestyle is a problem that affects most Americans and contributes to rising obesity and diabetes, the baby boomer generation is the first generation that has strived to stay active. While sedentary counterparts develop the same health issues as the average American, a sub-set of baby boomers are bucking the trend by staying active and living their best.
Depending on level of activity, it’s not unusual to see younger baby boomers, active people in their 50s, develop muscle pulls and strains common in younger athletes. Shoulder and knee problems are some of the most common issues affecting baby boomers and producing the phenomenon known as boomeritis. These are mid-life, active people who encounter a snag in their active lifestyle. There are new ways to treat wear-and-tear problems and preserve your activity level, but prevention is the best way to keep you on top of your game.
Here are some ways to keep you healthy:
- Stay active. You will feel younger and healthier than your counterparts, and you might be able to delay osteoarthritis and joint problems.
- Exercise daily, not just on weekends.
- Find a fitness coach to help you correct your posture and make sure you’re moving correctly.
- Choose good footwear.
- Pay attention to your body. Don’t continue working out through the pain.
- Improve your posture, and work on your strength, flexibility and balance to avoid injuries.
- See a doctor if you feel discomfort. Early intervention is best.
How can you tell when it’s time to see a doctor? When your gait starts to be affected by pain, or when you develop a limp, it’s probably time to talk to a doctor about knee or hip discomfort. If any other problem curtails your normal activities, it’s time to get those problems checked out by a family doctor and possibly an orthopedic specialist.
If a doctor tells you that you have early arthritis, you can stay active by switching to low impact activities such as swimming, bicycling and elliptical machine workouts. These are preferred over high impact activities like running. If you enjoy group exercise classes, you can continue by simply modifying your movements. Most instructors will accommodate your needs and help you exercise effectively and without risking injury.
The deterioration of muscle, bone strength and agility, might seem like a normal part of the aging process, but you can avoid boomeritis by exercising with a new awareness of your strengths in order to preserve your active lifestyle.
Stephen Lucie, MD, is one of a few orthopedic surgeons in northeast Florida with board certification in both orthopedic surgery and orthopedic sports medicine. Dr. Lucie served as the first head team physician for the Jacksonville Jaguars and helped develop the team’s sports medicine facility. He is still a consultant with the Jaguars and is team physician for Jacksonville University, the Jacksonville Sharks arena football team and the Bolles School. He graduated from the University of North Carolina and the Medical College of Georgia. He completed his residency in orthopedics at the University of Colorado in Denver.